Well, what a pleasant surprise that was! I'd anticipated Pericles to be one of Shakespeare's "bargain bin" plays, and while there are definitely ways in which it falls short, the BBC Shakespeare production was quite captivating.
This is the one about which I feel it can most be said: "Why isn't this play produced more often?" Okay, Shakespeare apparently only wrote the last half. There's not a great dramatic arc to the story, a lot of questions are left unanswered, and Pericles himself isn't a very deep fellow. But taken as a sort of Candide-like string of adventures, the play is packed with interesting incidents: shipwrecks, riddles, jousting, incest, a brothel, and bringing the dead back to life!
And I have to say, as presented here, I found the scene where Pericles is reunited with his daughter Marina to be as moving as anything I've seen in the whole series. It helped enormously that it began with the gorgeous Amanda Redman beautifully singing an exquisite song by Martin Best, accompanied by Frances Kelly on harp.
One of the rewards of watching the entire BBC series is seeing actors popping up from time to time in different roles. As Lysimachus, it was nice to see Patrick Ryecart finding love with a much happier ending than he did as Romeo in the series' inaugural production, six years earlier!
And I would of course be predisposed to like this production of Pericles anyway, simply for the fact that it contains five members of the RSC's Nicholas Nickleby! Edward Petherbridge spoke John Gower's narration beautifully (in an odd, quasi-American/Irish accent). His former employer John Woodvine brought his accustomed chill to the wicked Antiochus. Patrick Godfrey, who didn't have a lot to do in Nick Nick, made a strong impression as the stalwart Helicanus. Christopher Ravenscroft, who made a strong impression in Nick Nick, didn't have a lot to do in Pericles. And last-but-oh-my-certainly-never-least, Lila Kaye showed again what a scene-stealing powerhouse she could be as Bawd.
Kudos to director David Hugh Jones for an excellent production.